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Chapter 11 : The Full Moon.
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The day after the full moon, Transfiguration was taken by Professor Cavendish, the elderly Ancient Runes teacher.
“OK, right,” he began. “Professor Blackburn left me some work for you here somewhere.” He rooted through a large number of papers, flinging a couple of them on the floor as he did so.
“Ah…no, that isn’t it…erm, right.” He dumped the pile of papers down on the desk. “I think she said…er, the questions at the end of chapter four. Or was it chapter five?”
“We’re only on chapter three, Professor,” Rose told him.
“Oh! Right, maybe it was chapter three then. Have you done those questions?”
“Well, maybe it was them, so. I really thought she said chapter five,” he added almost to himself. “Anyway, whatever.”
He started rifling through the papers on the desk again, tossing them aside apparently at random. Rose felt sure he’d have his own papers completely mixed up with the Transfiguration books and other things already on the desk by the time the lesson was over.
Derek leaned across Albus to ask, “what did you want telling him what chapter we were on for? We could have got away with doing nothing for this class. Blackburn wouldn’t have blamed us if he gave us the wrong questions.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Did you really want to spend the class attempting questions on a chapter we haven’t even started?”
“We could have just pretended. Done our homework or something. Do you think he’d have noticed?”
She had to admit he probably wouldn’t. As it was, he was flicking though a N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration textbook, muttering something inaudible to himself as he did so.
But, “we’d have to do the questions sometime anyway,” she pointed out. “We’d probably have got them for homework some night.”
“She might have let us do them in class tomorrow.”
Rose didn’t answer, instead turning to start the questions. She was quite sure they were what Blackburn must have meant. At any rate, they covered the topics they’d discussed in the previous classes.
Should she take the opportunity to talk to Cavendish after class? she wondered idly. They didn’t have to choose their optional subjects until the end of the year, but this was such a perfect opportunity, especially with lunch next.
But he did seem rather distracted, which made her wary of approaching him.
She decided to chance it.
“Yes, young lady?” he said, continung to concentrate on a piece of parchment he appeared to have covered in Ancient Runes.
“I was wondering if I could ask you about maybe taking Ancient Runes next year.”
This time he did look up.
“Of course, young lady, of course. I’m always delighted to encourage any young people with an interest in the subject. See these runes here.” He picked up the piece of parchment before him.
“This was found on the tomb of a wizard believed to have died four thousand, six hundred years ago. Four thousand, six hundred years and we have access to what was written on his tomb. Can you imagine what a coup that is, young lady?”
“Well, I suppose so.”
“There’s no ‘suppose’ about it. It’s absolutely amazing. And if you look at this symbol here. That’s a very ambiguous symbol, that one. It can be interpreted many different ways. I’m still trying to puzzle out if the ambiguity is deliberate, if perhaps our inscriber didn’t want to reveal just what he thought of the dead man.”
“You mean, maybe he didn’t really like him? Or something?”
“It’s possible, young lady, it’s possible. Or perhaps there was a scandal which the inscriber didn’t want to allude to directly.”
She had to agree the idea was intriguing. Rasmus, she felt sure, would be interested in the possibilities too.
She was, however, beginning to regret approaching him immediately before lunch, as she was getting hungry and he showed no signs of drawing the conversation to an end.
“It isn’t always possible to understand Ancient Runes in isolation,” he continued. “Now, if we could find out some further information either about the dead man or the man who wrote the Runes, we might get somewhere. And I say ‘man’, but there is nothing to indicate whether this was written by a man or a woman. Sometimes you can make a pretty accurate guess, but in this case…”
“How could you guess?” Despite her desire to get to lunch, her curiosity had been raised.
“In some ancient cultures, magic tended to be divided by gender, with some forms being more closely associated with men and others with women. That’s one indication. And of course, if the witch or wizard is well enough known, one can often catch a glimpse of their signature, so to speak. Yes, yes, in some cases, one can tell quite a lot about the wizard – or witch – who inscribed the runes, but in this particular case, he or she seems to have maintained his or her anonymity. I don’t know whether it was deliberate or if he or she is simply somebody of no great importance. That one symbol there is the one indication we have of an untold story and of course it may just be poor phrasing.” He picked up a pen and drew an upside-down version of the symbol, then stared at it thoughtfully. He seemed to have forgotten she was there.
“Erm, Sir, I should probably go to lunch.”
“Oh, yes, yes.” He waved her away, his other hand turning the parchment he’d covered with symbols upside-down, as if that would allow him interpret it better.
She reached the Great Hall just as deserts were appearing on the tables and hastily piled some onto her plate. It wasn’t healthy, only eating desert, but for one meal, it would hardly matter that much.
“Where were you?” Albus asked her.
“I just stopped to ask Cavendish about studying Ancient Runes next year.” She laughed. “Let’s just say he’s rather enthusiastic about his subject.”
“Was it interesting?” Albus asked.
“Yes, actually. I think I’d have found it even more interesting if I hadn’t been absolutely starving.” She paused to eat some of her pie. “I think you’d like the subject actually, Rasmus. Cavendish showed me some runes and he said one of the symbols used was quite ambiguous.” She explained why he’d thought that significant.
“Who cares?” Derek groaned. “These people are all dead anyway. What does it matter what they thought or did?”
“It matters if they were powerful witches or wizards,” Rose said. “There are a lot of older forms of magic that have been practically lost. Of course some of them wouldn’t be allowed nowadays anyway, for various reasons, but there are others we could learn a lot from if only we could decipher them.”
“Plus, it’s interesting,” Rasmus said. “I mean, you’d want to know about the Hogwarts Founders, wouldn’t you?”
“To be honest, not particularly.”
“’Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,’” Rose quoted. “That’s what my mum always says.
“Well, I can understand wanting to know about that Dark Lord fellow and all that stuff. At least, that’s in the last century and there are people still alive who were involved. But these guys died hundreds of years ago. How can we possibly repeat anything they did?”
“Pureblood prejudice goes back at least to the time of the Founders,” Rose pointed out. “Slytherin left Hogwarts because he disagreed with the inclusion of Muggleborns and he left a Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets that wasn’t killed until our parents were in second year. Well, my parents and Albus’s dad. His mum was in first year. Spells and magic can last a long time.”
Derek sighed and shook his head. “It sure sounds that way.”
“Isn’t Ancient Runes supposed to be very hard?” Albus asked.
“I don’t think you should think about subjects like that,” Rose said. “Any subject can be difficult. It depends what you’ve a talent for. You shouldn’t listen to what other people say about them.”
“But then how are you supposed to figure out what to choose?” he asked. “It’s too late once you’ve started studying.”
“You talk to the professors, like I did and get an idea of whether or not the subject would interest you. Or you look at some of the textbooks. It’s worth checking things out as early as possible in the year, so we’ve time to consider all our options.”
“You do realise there’s nearly a year until we’ve to decide.” Derek sounded amused.
“There isn’t really,” she said. “We’ll have to decide by the end of this school year, which is only about nine months away now. Less, because we won’t be able to hand in our choices on the very last day of term. We’ll have a deadline.”
“Oh, only nine months. We’ll have to hurry, so,” he said sarcastically.
“You’ll be sorry when the end of the year comes and you’re trying to prepare for the exams and decide on your subject choices.”
“I think I’ll risk it.”
“Come on.” Ramus sounded amused. “You can finish this argument later. We need to get to Charms.”
Rose sighed as the deserts began to disappear from the dishes. She was going to be starving by dinnertime.
Professor Blackburn wasn’t at breakfast the following morning.
“Great.” Dora grinned. “I could do with another free class.”
Rose gritted her teeth, but didn’t respond.
“Is she usually at breakfast after being absent?” Angie asked. “I don’t remember.”
Rose shrugged. “I don’t either. I never really took much notice. I hope she’s all right.”
Albus looked worried. “Do you think something’s happened?”
“Like what exactly?” Rasmus asked.
“I don’t know,” Albus said. “Something bad.”
“I really wouldn’t think so,” Rasmus said. “Think about it logically. What are the odds of something bad happening the one time we’re paying attention to it? If any other teacher were missing, we’d just think they slept in or something.”
“She has been getting a pretty rough time lately though,” Rose said. “I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t want to face us.” She glanced automatically in Dora’s direction.
Rasmus, however, seemed to have been right to play down their concerns as Professor Blackburn was waiting for them when they entered the Transfiguration classroom later that morning.
Rose couldn’t help smiling. So much for Dora’s hopes of a free class.
“Erm, Professor?” Angie began.
Rose thought Blackburn sounded tired. And she was very pale. Rose didn’t remember her looking so ill after previous full moons, but then, she supposed, she hadn’t been paying as much attention.
“Was it the questions at the end of chapter three we were supposed to do?” Angie asked. “Professor Cavendish wasn’t sure, but we thought it had to be.”
Professor Blackburn nodded. “Yes. Was there some confusion?”
“Professor Cavendish said chapter five,” Rasmus told her. “Or maybe chapter four. But since we haven’t even started those chapters, we assumed it must be chapter three.”
She smiled. “I suppose you deserve some points for finding the right ones. Let’s see, how about ten points to Ravenclaw?”
“Thanks Professor.” Angie grinned.
“Well, I imagine it must have been tempting to just decide you couldn’t do them.”
A guilty look crossed Derek’s face, but if Blackburn noticed, she didn’t comment on it.
“Now, let’s see what answers you got,” she continued.
Once the questions had been corrected, Professor Blackburn asked Albus to hand everybody a chrysanthemum which they would then attempt to transfigure into daffodils.
“Most of you shouldn’t find it too difficult,” she said. “They’re both flowers and neither has any magical properties or other complicating factors.”
She was right about it’s not being particularly difficult, Rose thought. It took her little more than ten minutes to transfigure her chrysanthemum and she spent the rest of the lesson watching her classmates. Rasmus took only a little longer than she had and by the end of the class, almost everybody had completed the task. Even Dora made the effort, although it took her most of the lesson to manage it, probably because she’d been paying so little attention in recent lessons.
“Well done everybody,” Professor Blackburn said. “On Friday, we’ll try something a little more difficult, transfiguring leaves into flowers.”
Dora sighed as they left the classroom. “What’s the point of all this anyway?” she muttered. “What are we? Flower arrangers?”
“What if you were getting married and the flowers you wanted weren’t in bloom at the right time of year?” Fionnuala asked.
“I’d have different flowers, then.” Dora rolled her eyes.
Rose was distracted from joining the argument, having noticed her quill was missing.
“I must have left it in the Transfiguration classroom,” she muttered.
“What?” Albus asked.
“My quill. I think I left it in the Transfiguration classroom. And I didn’t think to bring a spare with me. I’d better go back and get it. Tell Professor Fairfax I’ll only be a moment, all right?”
Fairfax was pretty strict about students being on time for his classes, but he was usually reasonable, so hopefully he’d consider getting a quill a valid reason for being a few moments late.
Professor Blackburn was alone in the classroom when Rose returned and was sitting at her desk, a hand over her eyes.
She looked up. “Oh, Rose, you’re still here? Did you want something?”
“I just left my quill here. Er, are you all right?”
Rose shifted awkwardly.
“I don’t mean to be cheeky or anything,” she began hesitantly, “but you don’t look very well.”
“No, perhaps not.” She paused for a moment and rubbed her forehead. “I’m all right really. I think I’m getting a bit of a headache, that’s all. It’s nothing.”
“Do you want me to get somebody?”
“No, no, thanks Rose. Like I said, it’s nothing really. I’ll get a potion from Poppy - Madame Pomfrey - at lunchtime if it gets any worse.”
“OK,” Rose said uncertainly.
Blackburn gave a slight smile. “Really, there’s nothing to worry about. This is pretty normal, actually.” She sighed.
“It must be awful. Sorry, Professor, I just meant…I didn’t mean...”
“I know what you meant. It’s kind of you to be so concerned.” She paused for a moment. “It isn’t exactly pleasant, but it is only a day or two a month. I’ll be fine tomorrow. I really just need a night’s sleep.” A thought seemed to strike her and she glanced up suddenly. “You shouldn’t still be here. You’ll be late for your next class.”
“Yeah, probably,” Rose admitted.
“If the teacher says anything, just tell them I kept you. Tell them they can ask me about it tomorrow. Or at lunch today. Whenever. All right?”
Rose smiled. “Yeah, thanks Professor.”
“You’re welcome. And Rose? Thanks for the concern. I do appreciate it.”
She grabbed her quill and raced out of the classroom.
She was definitely going to be late, she realised, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.
A group of first years were coming down the corridor towards the Transfiguration classroom. She noticed Felicity trailing behind the rest of her class, biting her lip and looking wary.
Rose felt a familiar rush of irritation. Felicity wasn’t exactly making much effort to hide her feelings and it seemed so melodramatic, going into class with that “I’m so terrified” look on her face. If she’d any more time, she’d have been tempted to say something to the younger girl.
But the last thing she needed was any more delays. Even if she did say Blackburn’d kept her, Fairfax still probably wouldn’t be best pleased. He didn’t like his classes being disrupted.
The class, however, was only just getting started when she entered the dungeon and Fairfax ushered her in with only mild annoyance.
“Did you get your quill?”
He tutted. “You should make sure you have everything before leaving a classroom. You’re holding us up.”
“I know, Professor. I’m sorry.”
He waved her away. “Go and sit down. Now, today we’re going to look at the hair raising potion. I really don’t know why this is even on the course. It has very little practical use whatsoever, but I don’t write the syllabus and I suppose it does introduce some useful principles of potion making.”
He looked slightly aggrieved at his lack of input in creating the syllabus.
Despite his disapproval of the subject matter, however, his teaching was as clear and as thorough as ever.
“By tomorrow,” he concluded. “I want you to be completely familiar with the instructions for this potion as you’ll be expected to brew it in tomorrow’s class. Good day to you.”
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